New York State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly cast aside a lawsuit filed by an environmental group that challenged the right of the state to put in 36 miles of connector snowmobile trails to some Adirondack communities. The so-called “community connector” trails will provide paths to Minerva, Newcomb, Indian Lake and North Hudson in Essex County in northeastern New York.
The Protect The Adirondacks group had sued the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency, claiming that plans for the trails violated the Forever Wild clause of the state’s constitution that was aimed at protecting the Adirondack forest preserve. The lawsuit even led to a rather wacky discussion over what exactly constituted a tree — Forever Wild claimed that the trail corridors would result in the removal of 36,000 trees while the state said the number was closer to 6,000.
In the end, the judge ruled that the state could move ahead with the trail development.
“The Court finds the nature of the use, that is, the use of the trails to experience the Preserve, consistent with the opening up of the Preserve for the use and access of all the public, particularly those whose physical limitations might otherwise prevent access to anything but the areas where roads bisect the park,” the ruling said. “Further, as set forth in the testimony of the State, the newly created trails at issue herein are for the use of the public in accessing the relevant Preserve areas at all times of the year, not just during snowmobile season, as the trails are envisioned to be used in hiking, biking and for other similar access/use of the Park purposes. Simply put, these are trails, and trails for access would appear to be the quintessential example of an appropriate use of the Preserve.”
Furthermore, the court rejected overbroad arguments by the Protect The Adirondacks group the equated the building of the trails to more substantial projects.
“Many of the plaintiff’s arguments are premised on the proposition that the trails are so constructed as to have the same effect on the Preserve as forest roads,” the judge wrote. “It is clear to the Court from the evidence presented that the trails at issue herein do not share the identical essential characteristics of foot trails or forest roads, but rather fall somewhere between the two. The constructed trails, like foot trails, are not crowned, do not utility linear ditching, are less wide than forest roads… and are not constructed using materials brought in from outside the immediate location. On the other hand, the trails are clearly wider and more groomed… than average foot trails.”